Chicago Teachers Union Strike Negotiations Down to ‘Major Issues’

Disagreements remain on issues like class sizes, staffing and the length of the contract

Although the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools didn't report any major breakthroughs on Friday, both sides acknowledged negotiations are now focused on a small number of issues.

At a news conference on Friday evening, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the two sides were discussing issues that "matter the most," but are the "hardest."

"There's a degree of frustration that goes along with this part of the process," he said. "Not the first time I've been through it."

Hundreds of teachers marched from Buckingham Fountain to City Hall in the afternoon hours on Friday, the seventh school day of the strike.

Both CPS and the CTU said they've made progress at the bargaining table, but that some disagreements remain on issues like class sizes, staffing and the length of the contract. 

"Now we're really focused on how we get to a place where there's some compromise on some of those big key issues that requires a little give and take," said CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade.

The union wants CPS to put in writing a commitment to smaller class sizes, which teachers say currently exceed 30 or 40 students in some schools, and to staff each school with a nurse, librarian and social worker. Part of their request includes an enforcement mechanism to ensure the district adheres to the class size and staffing levels in the contract. 

CPS says it's taken steps toward meeting those goals but has a responsibility to taxpayers and students to ensure the district is financially stable.

Both sides are planning to continue their work throughout the weekend.

"The focus tomorrow [Saturday]... how do we get closure on some of the big priorities that have been constant areas of discussion," McDade said.

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